Voodoo Song has been unbeatable since transferring to trainer Linda Rice, and on Saturday the English Channel sophomore will pit his four-race win streak against seven rivals in the $200,000 Commonwealth Derby (G3) at Laurel Park.
The chestnut colt, previously conditioned by Michael Hushion, romped by 5 1/4 lengths against claiming rivals in his first start for Rice on July 22 at Saratoga. He returned just four days later to wire an allowance by three parts of a length, then captured an allowance/optional claimer on August 23 by a length in front-running fashion.
Voodoo Song enters the Commonwealth Derby off a neck score, once again leading gate-to-wire, in the Saranac Stakes (G3) at Saratoga on September 2, only 10 days after his prior start, and keeps jockey Jose Lezcano aboard for this 1 1/8-mile turf contest.
Those lining up against the New York-bred colt are Final Copy, Master Plan and Just Howard.
Final Copy captured his stakes bow in the Toronto Cup at Woodbine on July 23 and last out just missed by a nose when second in the Breeders’ Stakes going 1 1/2 miles over that track’s turf course. The Roger Attfield pupil gets Jesse Campbell aboard for this one.
Master Plan was a well-beaten eighth behind Voodoo Song in the Saranac last out, but entered that contest off a runner-up effort in the Kent Stakes (G3) at Delaware Park on July 15. The Todd Pletcher trainee captured the Stanton Stakes in June and will have Sheldon Russell in the saddle for the first time here.
Just Howard took six tries to break his maiden for trainer Graham Motion, but finally got the job done on May 29 at Pimlico. Since then the English Channel chestnut, who is named for Maryland breeding and racing stalwart Howard Bender, has recorded a head score in the Caveat Stakes and a neck victory in the Find Stakes, both at Laurel Park.
“Howard Bender bred the horse and Howard Bender was a friend of ours and a good customer of ours for many years,” said Robert “Willie” White, who makes up owner Skeedattle Associates with Lou Rehak and Bob Orndorff. “When it came time to name him, we were trying all these Mr. B’s and that stuff. Larry Murray, who used to train for Howard Bender said, ‘You know, Howard would just say, just Howard.’ So we thought, ‘Just Howard is a good name.’”
The sophomore colt is the first horse Motion has trained for Skeedattle Associates.
“I always like to go watch the horses train, so it was a little bit of a tough decision to send one to Fair Hill,” White admitted. “But Graham and I have been friends for many years and he always teases me when he sees me, ‘Give us a horse.’ Like he couldn’t get a horse. Everybody in the world wants to give Graham a horse. We finally decided to because this was a turf horse, a good opportunity and he would be a great place for him.”
Feargal Lynch has the call on Just Howard in the Commonwealth Derby.
Earlier on Sunday, 10 fillies were entered in the $150,000 Commonwealth Oaks (G3) going 1 1/8 miles on the turf at Laurel.
In the Lee will attempt to become the third straight Stuart Janney III homebred and Shug McGaughey trainee to win the race when lining up in the far outside post. The Tapit filly is 2-0-1 from three starts thus far, and will be making her stakes bow in the Commonwealth Oaks under regular rider Forest Boyce.
“I worry that if I think about it too much it won’t come to pass,” Janney said. “But it would be great. I care a lot about Maryland racing and everyone has been doing a great job there. I was toured all around the facility recently and it’s great what they’re doing. (Commonwealth) is a great day and it’s a fun race to win.”
Janney and McGaughey sent out Onus to win the Commonwealth Oaks in 2015 and My Impression to take last year’s running.
Rymska is the top draw in the 2017 running of the Commonwealth Oaks off a three-quarter length victory in the Sweetest Chant Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park. However, the Chad Brown-trained daughter of Le Havre hasn’t raced since that February 4 event. Feargal Lynch will be in the irons for the first time.
Eight runners will head to the gate one race later in the $200,000 Baltimore/Washington International Turf Cup (G2). The one-mile turf contest attracted last year’s Commonwealth Derby winner, Blacktype, who just returned to the winner’s circle last out.
The French-bred Blacktype capped a three-race win streak for trainer Christophe Clement in the 2016 Commonwealth Derby, and placed in four of his next six, including the Dixie Stakes (G2) on May 20 at Pimlico. The Dunkerque gelding got back to his winning ways most recently on September 9 at Belmont Park when taking an allowance/optional claimer by a length. Horacio Karamanos has the call on Saturday.
Also entered here is multiple Grade 2 hero Tower of Texas, who ran second in last year’s Woodbine Mile (Can-G1) and finished eighth last out in this season’s edition of that contest. The Roger Attfield trainee will be making only his third appearance outside of Woodbine in this spot.